Varicose veins that appear during pregnancy can cause discomfort, cramps and swelling. Let’s walk through everything you need to know about varicose veins and pregnancy.
What are Varicose Veins?
Varicose veins are large, protruding leg veins that literally bulge from under the skin.
They can affect both men and women and can run in the family.
How do Varicose Veins Develop?
All veins have one-way stop valves that stop the blood from flowing backwards, in the wrong direction. Varicose veins develop when the valves don’t work properly. When this happens, blood can no longer flow in its designated normal direction and begins to leak backwards, through the defective valve.
The net effect of blood leaking backwards into the vein is that it begins to collect in the vein making the vein wall stretch and sag over time. Eventually the vein swells and becomes visible under the skin.
What are the Symptoms of Varicose Veins?
As well as being unsightly, varicose veins can cause:
- Skin itchiness and dermatitis in the lower leg
- Swollen feet and ankles
- Muscle cramps at night
- Restless legs or a feeling of ‘creepy crawlies’ in the legs
- Heaviness in the legs
- Aching in the legs
Why do people get Varicose Veins in Pregnancy?
Pregnancy can aggravate pre-existing varicose veins. Many women who have pregnancy related veins may have never ever noticed veins before. It is not until they get pregnant when veins become visible and start to cause some or all of the symptoms mentioned above.
Your growing baby, the placenta and your uterus can put incredible pressure on the veins in your pelvis. Pelvic veins lie within the walls of the uterus, the walls of the vagina and rectum and in the Perineum (in between the vagina and rectum). Just like Haemorrhoids, pelvic varicose veins can develop during pregnancy and cause a lot of discomfort.
Pelvic Veins will then put pressure on veins in the thighs and lower legs and lead to severe problems during pregnancy.
Can I Prevent Varicose Veins?
Unfortunately, there’s not much that you can do to prevent varicose veins, or to stop them getting worse.
However, here are some things you can try:
- Wear Class 2 compression stockings during the day. This will help compress your veins and help promote normal blood flow.
- Don’t sit or stand for long periods of time. Instead, move around at least once every hour or so.
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle. Don’t smoke, don’t drink excessively and exercise as regularly as possible.
- If you have to sit at a desk all day at work, try elevating your legs by using a footstool.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight will put more pressure on your veins, further exacerbating symptoms.
- Wear stockings on long haul car or plane travel.
How Serious are Pregnancy Related Varicose Veins?
Varicose veins don’t usually cause serious problems.
However, pregnant women with varicose veins may suffer from any of the following:
- Deep Vein Thrombosis (clot in the deep veins of the legs)
- Superficial Vein Thrombosis (clots in the varicose veins themselves)
- Extreme pelvic pressure and heaviness
- Discomfort and sometimes pain in the legs
- Rashes (Venous Dermatitis)
- Flaring of capillaries and smaller veins as a result of the varicose veins
Deep Vein Thrombosis during Pregnancy is probably the most serious of the complications. Although this is uncommon, it is considered one of the leading causes of thrombosis in women and has the potential to be life threatening, should the clots travel to the lungs.
What can be done to Treat Pregnancy Related Veins?
As a general rule, we do not treat varicose veins during pregnancy. However, with today’s excellent, modern techniques we encourage women to have their veins treated before or in between pregnancies to avoid potentially serious issues during pregnancies, in particular, Deep or Superficial Vein clots that can migrate to the lungs and unbearable symptoms such as swelling, aching and pain and leg rashes.
There are a number of treatments you could have, including Ultrasound Guided Sclerotherapy, Laser or Radiofrequency Ablation or Medical Adhesive Treatment (Venaseal) surgery, radiofrequency or laser treatment.
Make an appointment today to have your varicose veins assessed by a vein specialist, phone 9898 4466.